AR headsets are a technology that continues to hold much promise but has not been figured out by anyone 100% quite yet. The unique challenge in optics, processing, and user experience has made the technology a complex puzzle to solve.
An overview of the history of AR technology. Image used courtesy of G2 (click to enlarge)
Amongst these challenges, designing lightweight, high-resolution optical displays have been of particular interest in recent years. Hoping to take on this challenge, this week, TriLite announced that they have teamed up with Dispelix to create a new, ultra-compact projection display specifically for AR headsets.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the promising techniques for AR displays and the approach that TriLite and Dispelix are taking.
Laser Beam Scanning Displays
One optical technology that has gained popularity due to its potential in AR headsets is laser beam scanning (LSB).
In an LBS display, red, green, and blue light are generated individually by three unique laser sources. An optic then combines these individual laser sources. The combined light is guided to its target through a mirror, often implemented using a micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) or a waveguide.
In a full display, a grid of these laser sources will create the different colored light, and the mirror/waveguide will target each pixel individually to create an entire image.
An example of an LBS display. Image used courtesy of TriLite
Overall, LBS offers several advantages over other display methods for AR headsets.
First, LBS is a relatively low-power technology, an essential metric for battery-powered, standalone AR headsets. Beyond this, LBS projectors offer an extended depth of field with exceptional color saturation, contrast, and brightness, which enables sharp and high-quality images. Finally, LBS is a lightweight and compact offering, again crucial for AR devices meant to be worn on a user’s head.
Thanks to these advantages, this technology is currently being employed in some of the most popular AR headsets available today, like the Microsoft Hololens 2.
Trixel 3—the “World’s Smallest LBS Projector”
This week, TriLite made headlines when they announced that they collaborated with Dispelix to create a new, ultra-compact AR display.
In this new partnership, TriLite is merging its expertise in creating miniature LBS displays with Dispelex knowledge in creating waveguides. Specifically, Dispelex is known for its DPX waveguides, consisting of a transparent, thin piece of glass meant to take incident light from multiple sources, merge them, and project an image to the eye.
Application example of the Trixel 3. Image used courtesy of TriLite
Merging their technologies, TriLite states that the new Trixel 3 comes in at a volume of fewer than 1 cm3, a metric that gives the product the title of the “world’s smallest LBS projector.” The small volume is matched with a minuscule weight of less than 0.5g, which can be equally important in ensuring comfortable AR headsets.
According to the companies, the small size results from removing the need for additional relay optics between the LBS and the waveguide, a convention that results in a doubling of the system size.
Paving the Way to More Comfortable AR Headsets
As companies wrestle with solving the many complexities of augmented reality headsets, it has become clear that improvements to our existing technologies will be necessary.
With, what is being called, the “industry’s smallest LBS display,” TriLite, and Dispelix look to have made significant advances that could open the door to more comfortable and ergonomic headsets in the future.
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